How to learn Kung Fu starting from a Karate’s base
Even if Karate has originally born from Kung Fu, it has taken a totally different path (read What is the relation between Karate and Kung Fu?) and for a practitioner, the switch could easier for certain aspects, harder for certain others.
Note – This article has been asked by one of our Core Course practitioners on Patreon (see how to attend our home study classes here Learn Kung Fu online: a beginner-to-expert course).
Before getting to the heart of similarities, differences and difficulties, it is essential to make some premises:
- Kung Fu is divided into many styles (internal, external, etc.), the people who will better benefit from the path we are going to describe are those who are moving toward a “soft” one, like Tai Chi (Taiji, read What is Tai Chi and what is its purpose?)
- Even Karate has a lot of different expressions (Shotokan, etc.), some harder, some softer but in any case, the difference with Kung Fu’s approach remains
- With a minimum of commitment and adequate openness to change, the transition is quite simple
- Who has practiced Karate for less than 6 months do not need particular preparation (this tutorial is for those who have a deeper knowledge of this martial art)
- Here we focus on Karate but similar reasoning can be valid for many other martial arts (Japanese and not only)
- In this article we do not intend in any way to compare Kung Fu and Karate with the idea of establishing which is better, it is a vacuous speech that does not interest us
A note by Master Kongling – In the particular case of 6 Dragons Kung Fu, what the student has already learned in other (good quality) martial arts’ courses will not be replaced. Our system integrates both hard (solid), both soft (liquid / fluid) approaches (read for example 6DKF’s interactions: from the strong blow to the light touch). In our school, we merge what is similar but we do not overlap what is incompatible, we simply flank it; it is for this reason that the path we are going to describe is useful also for our new practitioners.
Karate VS Kung Fu: 2 different approaches
Even if it is not a fixed rule, Karate typically prefer to opt for:
- Strong and segmented techniques execution (even due to the inevitable muscle memory’s conditioning forced by the Kata study)
- Linear force application
- Solid structures
Kung Fu’s approach
Even here, it is not a fixed rule but (the soft styles of) Kung Fu typically prefer to opt for:
- Uninterrupted flow with variations in terms of speed / strength intensity
- Circular force application
- Relaxed structures
How to switch from hard to soft movements
Based on what we have said, the question arises more than spontaneously:
How can a karateka become capable of exploiting the immense power of softness (read How to combine softness and power) if his setting is rigid?
A simple transitional path
The mental and physical change:
- Relaxation – We have to get used to feel and control the relaxation level of each of our body elements, one by one (shoulders, etc.); in this case, Qi Gong and / or Yoga practice can be extremely beneficial (read )
- Combat flow – We have to imagine the combat flow as an endless sequence, even with violent variations but always without interruptions (let’s imagine pedaling on a bicycle, what would happen if we started pedaling in jerks?)
- Limit stiffness – We always have to aim at relaxation, limiting the rigidity only to the smallest action moments (eg. the impact instant of a punch, read How to punch (simple explanation)); in 90% of the cases the rule is that we start soft, we become rigid for an instant and then we immediately return to be soft (even will controlling a fall, read Everything you should know about breakfalls)
- Be patient – In the beginning, it is not easy to learn to release power through softness and the temptation to impress energy through rigid motions is high but we have to resist; once we will get used to Kung Fu’s flow, we will experiment with a totally new type of strength / speed and we will never want to come back (read Hitting with softness)
Some of the best practices of 6 Dragons Kung Fu to find softness
In conclusion, here we have a selection of exercises that facilitate theswitch from Karate to Kung Fu:
- Basic tools: the cloth
- Dragon Motion: the swirling movements
- Water movements: the secrets paths exercise
In-depth video courses
- Advanced speed and reflexes training – An advanced level video course about the secrets of 6 Dragons Kung Fu’s speed
- Basic 6 Dragons Kung Fu Exercises – The fundamental technical exercises that we use to build real martial skills
- Master Kongling: my experience with Karate – What I have learned from the practice of Karate
- The Makiwara and the Poles Exercise – The connection point between Karate and one of the most important practices of our school
Reply in the comments and share your experience:
- How long have you been practicing Karate?
Author: Master KonglingFounder of 6 Dragons Kung Fu.
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